Dashiki Dialogues: Anything but African will do for us in SA

2012-11-18 10:00
Percy Mabandu
I contend that South African darkies are generally a xenophobic and self-hating lot. Bear with me, this is a sad realisation on my part.

It had to take an event connected to former state president ­Nelson Mandela for me to arrive at this unfortunate conclusion.

Ironically, it came wrapped up in the name of a man who, by the way, has been a symbol of all that made us an inclusive rainbow nation.

It came to me last week as the new Madiba banknotes came into circulation across the nation.

I observed all sorts of responses as South Africans from all walks of life declared their impressions and dissatisfactions with the new money.

I listened with amazement as shoppers complained that the new notes were ugly and looked, as they put it, “like it was from some African country”.

I remember being taken aback by the above statement. Aren’t we some African country? I wondered why it was undesirable to look like “some African country”.

I guess it wouldn’t have been a problem if it looked like it was from the US, Asia or a European country.

Anything but African, ­anything but what we are will do.

This objection to the notes’ ­Africanness is not an isolated thing in the SouthAfrican psyche, though, especially among the wounded lot of black ­people.

It is similar to how darkies are able to insult each other with ­references to their skin.

The verdict being passed by a darkie on another darkie makes it less socially controversial, though I think it should be more controversial.

The same thing can explain why the so-called xenophobic attacks of 2008 tended to be concentrated in areas characterised not only by high levels of poverty, bad municipal service delivery and incompetent community leadership that failed to follow up on the warning signs of these outbursts, but were specifically committed against African immigrants by local Africans.

The poor in Pretoria West were not chasing ­foreigners away, meanwhile, the destitute in Atteridgeville were burning Mozambicans.

If the new banknotes were being disparaged for not being inclusive, like I read one blogger saying, for a more inclusive spread, I would understand.

They argued that perhaps it would have been fair to feature some kind of struggle big five, ­including Madiba himself, Steve Biko, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu and Robert Sobukwe, for instance.

This could have gone a long way to give other struggle icons a space under the rainbow.

The move would have transcended what is looking like a Madiba brand overkill and the old leader’s cultish deification.

Only the popular complaints aren’t going there, they are an ­anti-African dialogue draped in a self-hating ­dashiki.

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